Science

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Workers converting a 15th-century granary (large brown building pictured) into a parking garage in Erfurt, Germany, uncovered graves from a medieval Jewish cemetery.

How Construction of a Parking Lot Uncovered New Insights About Medieval Jews

A new DNA study suggests Ashkenazi Jews living in 14th-century Germany were surprisingly genetically diverse

Natovenator likely swam to catch small prey.

World’s First Swimming Dinosaur Discovered in Mongolia

Natovenator was a streamlined hunter with jaws full of tiny teeth

Algoa Bay, South Africa, is home to nearly half of the world’s remaining African penguins, whose numbers have fallen as much as 98 percent since 1900.

These Artificial Nests Are Helping African Penguins Beat the Heat

Ceramic nests deployed on penguin colonies in South Africa could shield the endangered seabirds from rising temperatures

Fungi and bacteria play a big part in shaping the flavor and texture of cheese.

The Science Behind Your Cheese

The food is not just a tasty snack—it’s an ecosystem

This year's titles include I Was Better Last Night, Accidental Ecosystem and Winslow Homer: American Passage.

The Best Books of 2022

Smithsonian Scholars Pick Their Favorite Books of 2022

This wide-ranging list offers context for our rapidly changing world

In our efforts to increase and diffuse knowledge, we highly recommend these 44 titles this year.

The Best Books of 2022

The Best Books of 2022

In our efforts to increase and diffuse knowledge, we highly recommend these 44 titles this year

A red-eyed treefrog hangs on to a leaf in Costa Rica.

Why Frogs Survived the Asteroid That Wiped Out the Dinosaurs

Not too big, not too small—they were just the right size to live through Earth’s worst day

Fishers have employed all manner of strategies to prevent dolphins and other marine mammals from raiding their nets. “Hot sauce” is the latest in the arsenal.

Dolphins Shrug Off Hot Sauce-Spiked Nets

Fishing nets laced with spice did nothing to deter the hungry marine mammals

The top ten toys rated by Purdue University engineers help children build spatial reasoning, problem solving, coding and design thinking skills, among others.

Engineers Pick the Ten Best STEM Toys to Give as Gifts in 2022

Children can build strategy, critical thinking and resilience during expert-approved play

Angel Blue performing in the 2021 production of Fire Shut Up in My Bones at the Met.

Covid-19

Can Pathogens at the Opera Haunt a Performance?

New results show performers’ breath control can prevent disease from spreading

Under the right conditions, researchers say, some crop yields could increase by 50 percent or more.

Is Hacking Photosynthesis the Key to Increasing Crop Yields?

It’s an agricultural moonshot, but scientists hope to make plants like corn, wheat and barley as heat and drought resistant as cactus

The Milky Way’s black hole, Sagittarius A*

What the Image of the Milky Way's Black Hole Really Shows

This year’s picture of the swirling plasma around the massive object's edges will help to reveal more about the galaxy’s history and evolution

Salmon are believed to have a relationship, direct or indirect, with more than 100 different species. In Alaska, brown bears famously fish for adult salmon as they swim upstream to spawn.

How Will Mining Affect Alaskan Salmon?

Active mines, proposed mines and exploratory projects in Alaska and British Columbia may affect key salmon watersheds

With one vast root system, Pando weighs more than 6,600 tons and contains approximately 47,000 genetically identical stems (or branches).

The World's Largest Tree Is Ready for Its Close-Up

Friends of Pando, a nonprofit, is in the process of creating the largest image ever recorded of this single aspen clone in Utah

A mouse lemur grasps onto a tree branch in Madagascar. Scientists looked to characteristics in such modern primates to form a hypothesis about how primates behaved after an asteroid wiped out non-avian dinosaurs.

Soon After Dinosaur Decimation, Our Primate Ancestors Began Pouncing on Prey

Nails helped them climb trees quietly, and forward-facing eyes helped with depth perception to aid in precise leaping

According to the National Park Service, 95 percent of U.S. brown bears live in Alaska.

Alaska

Getting Up Close to the Bears of Alaska's Lake Clark National Park

The high density of brown bears in the protected area makes it an ideal spot for viewing and research

The costume worn by Chadwick Boseman’s Black Panther in the 2016 film Captain America: Civil War is in the collection of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. The suit imbues him with powers similar to the abilities of the dark cats.

14 Fun Facts About Black Panthers

Many of the Marvel superhero’s powers are inspired by the namesake predator

Scientists are testing this 15th-century letter for chemical traces of its author, Vlad Dracula, Transylvanian ruler and inspiration for the fictional count.

Document Detectives Use Smudges and Bloodstains to Investigate the Past

Proteins left behind on historic artifacts are revealing centuries-old secrets

On the Eastern Shore of Maryland, the bare, whitened trunks of a “ghost forest” are one of the effects of surging waters that turn woodland into marsh.

Why Marshlands Are the Perfect Lab for Studying Climate Change

At the border between land and sea, an extraordinary set of experiments is helping us prepare for an uncertain future

A fishing cat, Prionailurus viverrinus, in Koh Mon, Thailand, at a shrimp farm. Such facilities reduce the area inhabited by the shy animal, contributing to its decline. 

Planet Positive

Fishing Cats Face Many Human Threats. What Can Be Done to Save Them?

The wild felines in Asia are highly adapted to watery environs that are disappearing

Photo of the day

A charming Barn Owl Barn Owl